Government creates elite unit to probe financial crimes

Parliament of India
New Delhi, May 19: Faced with a plethora of frauds and scams, the Finance Ministry has decided to set up a specialised wing to probe financial crimes like terror financing, money laundering and trail black money.

The specialised wing -- Directorate of Criminal Investigation (Income Tax)-- will be manned by hand-picked officers who are experts in financial and forensic investigations.

The I-T department, which has unearthed about Rs 30,000 crore blackmoney in the past two years, has begun putting necessary infrastructure for the new unit.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee gave his approval for the creation of the new unit earlier this month and this has come as a ''shot in the arm'' for the department which is currently probing some very high-profile and big-ticket financial transactions in the country and abroad.

This is on the lines of the action plan, called ''Vision 2020'' unveiled by Mukherjee earlier this year. The document, among other things, focuses on the department's efforts to unearth black money.

Under the provisions of the new Direct Taxes Code (DTC) which is set to replace the I-T Act by next year, the department, with the operationalisation of this elite unit, will have powers to investigate and summon for evidence on the lines of the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI.

The new unit will enable the department to deploy additional intelligence and investigation tools to detect and combat terror financing, money laundering, offshore tax evasion and other illegal trades which impact national security.

"The department has begun putting the infrastructure in place for the new directorate which will have enhanced powers than the present investigation and intelligence units of I-T.

"The new unit will function under the provisions of the Income Tax Act but will have additional resources to check terror financing and financial proceeds of crime," a senior I-T officer said.

The creation of the new unit comes in the backdrop of a new plan of action developed by the Finance Ministry for the I-T department keeping in view the multitude of financial scams in the country and ramifications of national security through illegal funding and Hawala dealings.

"Income Tax department intends to use innovative methods to supplement its traditional enforcement tools in order to reduce the tax gap during the strategic plan period 2011-15. A conscious effort will be made to move towards non-intrusive targeted enforcement tools," the ''Vision 2020'' document of the department said. 

According to the document, the I-T is currently probing a host of high-profile financial irregularities from and to overseas destinations and is of the view that the "next decade" will see an increased role (of I-T) in scrutinising such transactions and fund flows.

"This will require the income tax department to deploy considerable resource and energy on criminal investigation.

"Effective criminal investigation will necessarily include a comprehensive international strategy to combat offshore tax evasion, and fund flows that threaten security of the country," the official document said.

The document, which will undergo a mid-term review in 2013, aims at taking forward the strategic planning of the department and its policies from 2011-2015 along with the new Direct Taxes Code (DTC) which is proposed to replace the current Income Tax Act from next fiscal.

The roadmap seeks to strategise the policies of the department as new technological development, accelerated globalisation, exchange of information between revenue authorities and the new Direct Tax Code offer both challenges and opportunities.

The department also proposes to hone its cyber forensic skills, keep tab on fund flow relating to money laundering, narcotics and terror and "ensure exemplary enforcement against abusive schemes and corporate tax frauds."

The I-T department accounts for 60 per cent of the central revenue.


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